2 years later, inmate shares firsthand account of events leading up to deadly prison riot
On the second anniversary of the deadly Saskatchewan Penitentiary riot, an inmate is now sharing what he witnessed.
Saul Laliberte, incarcerated at the time of the riot, was a member of the prison's kitchen staff. He said the riot occurred after his conversation with the warden about food portions.
"Like they're eating small portions of food, and you have guys that are like 200-plus pounds in there," Laliberte told CTV News.
About 200 inmates were involved in the riot, which occurred in December 2016 and led to a lockdown at the Prince Albert prison. A 43-year-old inmate was found unresponsive in the medium-security unit and pronounced dead in hospital.
"His death would probably never have happened – that guy would have never died, if the riot didn't happen," Laliberte said.
Warden rips up negotiations, calls for ‘Plan B’: Laliberte
Before tensions boiled over in the penitentiary, kitchen staff staged walks outs, refusing to work – in order to push for changes.
"Without the kitchen, the institution can't run, and inmates run the kitchen," Laliberte said.
According to Laliberte, inmates’ efforts eventually led to a series of meetings with the prison's warden. Laiberte, along with two other inmates, advocated for larger portions of food, on behalf of the prison population.
But Laliberte said the talks came to a stop. He claimed the warden literally tore up the agreement the two sides had been working on.
"We were sitting there and he just ripped it up and said, ‘We'll go to Plan B.’"
Laliberte said the warden told them they would find out what "Plan B" was when they got back to the "range," a reference to the area where prisoners live.
The riot began later that day. Laliberte said an unusually large amount of guards attempted to lock up inmates in their cells – in what he believes was a show of force.
After the riot, five men were charged with second degree murder and attempted murder.
Corrections Canada's internal investigation gets criticized
Laliberte’s account of the events leading to the riot, in many ways, echoed the Correctional Investigator's annual report. The Correctional Investigator oversees Corrections Canada and acts as an ombudsman for federal offenders.
The report, released earlier this fall, criticized Correctional Service Canada’s own internal investigation. The internal investigation found the riot was "random" and downplayed the role of food in the lead-up to the disturbance.
Ivan Zinger, Canada’s Correctional Investigator, said the internal examination was “superficial, self-serving and not credible.”
Zinger also recommended that Correctional Service Canada (CSC) not investigate itself following a riot, death or suicide.
CSC said it has taken steps to improve oversight and transparency.